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Melges 24 European Championship - Light and shifty opening day

by Justin Chisholm on 6 May 2014
Day 1 - Melges 24 European Championship 2014 © Pierrick Contin http://www.pierrickcontin.fr/
The 62 crews contesting the MKB Bank Melges 24 European Championship 2014 had a challenging first day of racing on Lake Balaton in Hungary today with two races completed in light, shifty and hard to predict breezes.

With the winds getting lighter and the shifts harder to read as the day went on, consistency was a rare commodity throughout the fleet.

Among those who did manage good results in both races were Italian Matteo Balestrero on ITA 693 'Giogi' with two second places and Geoff Carveth on GBR 694 'Gill Race Team'with a pair of thirds.

These two sit in first and second overall tonight, two points ahead of Ian Ainslie's Hungarian entry HUN 392 'Strange Brew'who followed up a seventh in the first race with a win in the second race.

A ninth and a fourth for Austria's Franz Urlesberger on AUT 681 'Schoenherr'leaves him in fourth place overall, five points behind Ainslie and two points ahead of fifth placed Italian, Matteo Ivaldi at the helm of Franco Rossini's Swiss entry SUI 825 'Blu Moon'.


Winner of the first race, Andrea Racchelli on ITA 735 'Altea', could only manage a nineteenth place in the second race and sits in seventh overall at the end of the first day.

In the 35-strong Corinthian division (no professional sailors allowed), Estonia's Tonu Toniste on EST 790 'Lenny'leads with a Corinthian 3,2, scoreline from Finland's Tomi Hakola on FIN 742 fundanything.com in second with a 2, 9, score, and Denmark's Peter Warrer on DEN 779 'Salty Dog'whose 4,7, performance puts him in Corinthian third overall.

It was another Danish helmsman, Kris Houmann on DEN 612 'melges.dk', who won the first race in the Corinthian division (eighth in the overall fleet) and he sits in fifth Corinthian place tonight.

Swiss sailor Michael Good topped the Corinthian standings in the second race (sixth in the main fleet) and lies in fourth Corinthian place tonight.

After an initial general recall on the start of the first race of the opening day, the fleet got away with individual recalls for just four boats. The first beat saw the breeze up to 10 - 11 knots for a short while with the fleet predominantly working the middle to left hand side of the course

At the first windward mark it was Matteo Balestrero on ITA 693 'Giogi'who rounded in first place ahead of Andrea Racchelli on ITA 735 'Altea'in second and Geoff Carveth helming GBR 694 'Gill Race Team'in third.

These three teams remained locked in close combat down the run and up the second beat.


At the second windward mark Racchelli had managed to squeeze past into first place - a lead he extended on the final leg to take the race win. Balestrero and Carveth continued to duel it out on the final leg but finished in the same order with Balestrero taking second and Carveth third.

After almost an hour's delay to allow a new breeze to try to establish itself and two subsequent general recalls, the race committee got the fleet away cleanly at the third attempt in six to eight knots of breeze.

Ian Ainslie on HUN 392 'Strange Brew' and Hermann Horn-Johannessen on NOR 732 'Rett Rundt Hjornet!' both got away very quickly and smoothly at the pin end of the line and took the early lead on the left side of the course.

At the first windward mark it was Ainslie who led by a length from Corinthian helmsman Michael Good on SUI 382 'Aile'in second, Balestrero in third and Carveth in fourth. By the end of the first downwind leg Ainslie had extended his lead a little and Balestrero had moved up into second ahead of Good in third.

Ainslie and Balestrero picked their way up the right hand side of the second beat and in the process significantly extended their lead over the chasing pack. With the breeze becoming increasingly light as the leg went on Balestrero was able to close down Ainslie's lead to just one boat length at the penultimate cross before the second windward mark.

Then, when they converged again on the starboard layline just boat lengths from the mark, Ainslie had to execute a perfect leebow tack just feet ahead the Italian boat to protect his lead.

Ainslie and the Hungarian crew held their nerve on the final downwind leg, pulling away from the chasing Italian crew and taking the win. Behind them, Balestrero ghosted home in second and Carveth worked his way back into third place by the finish.


Overall leader Matteo Balestrero said his team's two second places were the result of excellent crew work, good boat speed and excellent calls by his tactician Nicola Celon (winner of the 2006 Melges World Championship in Hyeres, France).

'The winds were very light and shifty so it was hard racing today,' said Balestrero. 'I just concentrated on driving fast, the crew did a good job on the boat handling, we had good speed and Nico made really good choices in both races.'

'Today was a good day for us,' he added with a broad smile. 'We are very happy with our results.'

Corinthian leader Tonu Toniste from Estonia, who sits in tenth place overall in the 62-boat fleet at the end of the first day, confirmed the light conditions had been taxing on the brain.

'It was quite light all day so it was very hard to work out which way to go,'Toniste said. 'You had to pick a side on the first beat, give it your best shot and hope you were right by the time you reached the windward mark. We had some lucky moments in both races today.'

Racing at the MKB Bank Melges 24 European Championship 2014 continues tomorrow when up to three races may be sailed. More light winds are expected.

The 10-race series runs through until Friday May 9 with up to three races scheduled each day.



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